No film this year constitutes a more ignoble failure than Tomas Alfredson’s (Let The Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) Scandi-snoozefest detective film The Snowman. At least other bad films this year looked bad from the outset: The Emoji Movie had a snowball’s chance in hell of being good, The Dark Tower’s production problems were publicised well in advance, and nobody ever cared about Transformers 5. But The Snowman has such a wealth of talent in front of and behind the camera (the executive-producer is none other than Martin Scorsese) that its failures seem even more pronounced than other terrible movies this year.
Michael Fassbender (in a performance more dreary than I’d ever thought him capable of) plays Harry Hole, a detective who you’d be forgiven for thinking is absolutely rubbish at his job if other characters didn’t inexplicably tell us he’s the “Best Detective Ever”. He teams up with a new recruit (Rebecca Ferguson) to find and stop a serial killer who keeps leaving snowmen at the scenes of his murders. The film never explains why he does this.
Not only are none of the performances even passable, but the story itself makes very little sense. Desperate to understand the train-wreck I’d just witnessed, I rushed home from the cinema to find out how a director who has previously been so clearly obsessed with creating coherence out of convolutions in Tinker Tailor could create such a bafflingly hard-to-follow mess here. It transpires that, by his estimates, 10-15% of the screenplay wasn’t even shot, meaning that essential pieces of the story were forgone in favour of a speedy shooting schedule.
Pieces of flashback sequences starring a laughably awful Val Kilmer are inserted into the story seemingly at random. Elsewhere, whole plot threads are picked up and dropped on a whim, as if the two editors were trying to outdo each other in a game of creating loose end upon loose end to convince the audience to get up and leave. Incomprehensibly edited action scenes and ludicrous plot developments inspire murmurs of incredulity, and mitigate any semblance of payoff the film could’ve had at many key moments.
Everyone on the screen looks bored, and everyone in my screening looked bored too. The film starts badly and, despite glimmers of improvement peeping through the snowy landscape, somehow gets worse the longer it goes on. Blade Runner 2049 is far more worthy of your attention, avoid The Snowman like frostbite.